Today, a dad begins cross-country drive for his daughter’s sake
Motivated to raise awareness of his daughter’s neurological condition and inspired by the cross-country exploits of early-1900s automobiles (as well as a few of his favorite car movies), Todd Touchberry is about to drive coast-to-coast in a 1920 Ford Model T.
Considering that Touchberry and his wife, Jennifer, knew nothing about Model Ts before they bought two of them a year ago, that plan might sound a little ambitious. Adding to the challenge, Todd hopes to complete the drive from South Carolina to California’s Pacific Coast in less than two weeks so that he can break the current 14-day solo record. That’s way more than ambitious; Todd admits that it’s “crazy.”
“I’m at a loss for words,” he says in a promotional video for the drive. “What have I gotten myself into?”
Touchberry knows full well what he’s gotten himself into. It was his idea. The 3000-mile cross-country quest, which begins today (November 17), is to benefit his 22-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and others like her who suffer from hydrocephalus, a life-altering, life-threatening condition caused by an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid, resulting in pressure on the brain. Hydrocephalus affects more than one million Americans, and there is no cure. The only treatment involves surgery to insert a shunt into the brain to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure.
Elizabeth Touchberry says that while most people can get rid of a headache with aspirin or some other over-the-counter medication, when she needs relief “it really is brain surgery.” She’s had 19 surgeries since she was born on April 23, 2001, most of them occurring prior to her 13th birthday.
Todd’s suggestion of a cross-country drive to shine light on his daughter’s disorder seems appropriate since the Touchberrys are classic car enthusiasts and enjoy coming up with ideas for fundraisers. Plus, Todd is a fan of road-trip movies like Convoy, Smokey and the Bandit, and Cannonball Run.
Jennifer, who is Elizabeth’s step-mom—Elizabeth’s mother is Brandy Stevens—calls it “the ultimate way to raise money for hydrocephalus while still showing our love and appreciation for old cars.”
But why drive 3000 miles in an automobile that was built more than a century ago? History. “While we were researching our Ford Model Ts, which we knew nothing about when we purchased them, Todd came across a couple of books about people who traveled across the country over a hundred years ago,” Jennifer says. “We were just in awe of the reliability of the cars.”
Todd says that one of the books that inspired him was Tom Cotter’s Ford Model T Coast to Coast: A Slow Drive across a Fast Country. Todd wrote on Facebook that he has “nothing but respect” for Cotter and hopes to meet him someday. He also decided that since Cotter referred to his Model T as “Something SPL,” he was naming his Model T “Nuthin’ Special.”
Cotter is well aware of the Touchberrys’ new-found appreciation for Model Ts and their support for the Hydrocephalus Association.
“Driving a Model T from coast-to-coast is the driving adventure of a lifetime,” he says. “I think they’ll find the car is up to the task, and this trip is one they’ll never forget. I hope they exceed their fundraising goals.”
The Touchberrys hope to raise at least $10/mile and donate the funds to assist with critical hydrocephalus research. They plan to share updates of their drive—from South Carolina through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and into California—via social media, including on Todd’s Facebook page. To donate to “Coast for Hydrocephalus,” visit www.hydroassoc.org/coast-2-coast/.